Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Stop Feeding Anger - 2nd in this 3-part series on anger

Anger and How It Arises

Stop Feeding Anger
  • We feed anger every time we act angrily
  • We feed anger by watching violence on TV
  • We feed anger by reading newspapers and magazines
  • We feed anger by watching violent movies
  • We feed anger by playing violent games
  • We feed anger by participating in violent sports
  • We feed anger by watching, reading, and listening to news stories
  • We feed anger every time we let anger arise and bloom in us
  • We feed anger by telling ourselves that there is good, healthy anger
  • We feed anger when we justify our anger
  • We feed anger when we encourage others to be angry
  • We feed anger every time we speak angrily or harshly or abusively
  • We feed anger every time we are bullying, retaliatory, or vengeful.
  • We feed anger every time we threaten someone.

Anger is an aversive, negative mind-state that

·       Focuses on someone (or something),
·       Feels (second skandha) them to be unattractive or undesirable,
·       Exaggerates their bad qualities and
·       Wishes to harm them.

Anger arises at the level of the second skandha when there is a feeling of aversion, which is always! Realizing this may help to understand that anger is therefore never an appropriate response to anything!

Anger arises when we concoct a story about someone or something we don’t want or like, then develop an aversion to it, which in fact really doesn’t exist.  Because anger is a fantasy, an exaggeration, anger is always unrealistic and intrinsically faulty. The person or thing that it focuses on does not in fact exist. So we develop anger from a fiction we create about someone or something that doesn't exist.

Anger, viewed this way, never serves any useful purpose whatsoever.

Understanding this, we then need to watch our mind carefully in order to recognize anger whenever it begins to grip us. The moment we feel the grip start, we need to practice discipline, awareness, and mindfulness. In other words, we need bring ourselves back close to the Path.

We do this by letting go (of the anger) and by resetting our intention to compassion and patience., This our attention and leads us to compassionate responses and actions that plant wholesome seeds in our garden and those allow us to make better choices in the future.

Understanding Anger

There is nothing more destructive than anger:

·       It destroys our peace and happiness now, and
·       Impels us to engage in negative actions that lead to untold suffering in the future.
·       It blocks our spiritual progress and prevents us from accomplishing our spiritual goals.

Anger is by nature a painful state of mind. Whenever we develop anger,

·       our inner peace immediately disappears and even
·       our body becomes tense and uncomfortable.
·       We are so restless that we find it nearly impossible to fall asleep, and whatever sleep we do manage to get is fitful and unrefreshing.

Metaphorically speaking, anger transforms even a normally attractive person into an ugly red-faced demon, a hell-being. We grow more and more miserable, and, no matter how hard we try, we cannot control our emotions.

One of the most harmful effects of anger is that it robs us of our reason and common sense:

“When reason ends, anger arises.” ––HHDL

Anger always carries with it a wish to retaliate against that or those whom we think have harmed us. Often we are willing to expose ourselves to great personal danger merely to exact petty revenge. To get our own back for perceived injustices or slights, we are prepared to jeopardize our job, our relationships, and even the well-being of our family and children.

When we are really angry we lose our freedom of choice, we are driven not by reason but anger and rage, anger violent sister. Sometimes this rage is even directed at our friends and family. Forgetting the immeasurable kindnesses we have received from our them, we often strike out against the ones we hold most dear. It is no wonder that an habitually angry person is soon avoided by those who know him.

The antidote for anger is patience, or “patient acceptance” as it is termed in Vajrayana, and if we are seriously interested in progressing along the spiritual path there is no practice more important than this.

Why We Get Angry

Anger is a response to feelings of aversion from the second skandha, making anger omnipresent. Whenever we are prevented from getting what we want (greed) or when we are forced into a situation we dislike (greed) – in short, whenever we have to put up with something we would rather avoid – our undisciplined mind reacts by immediately feeling aversive. This uncomfortable feeling is what turns into anger.

Training ourselves to be aware of the physical symptoms of anger, which arise before the emotional components, gives us a good chance of stopping anger from taking hold. Some of those physical responses we can notice are faster shorter breaths, increased heart rate, facila tension, muscle tension and jerkiness, teeth clenching and grinding, flushing, prickly sensation in the hands, and sweating.

As soon as you notice these sensations arising, shift your mindstate, intention and attention to reduce and eliminate the anger and let patience arise. If you wait the adrenaline will surge through your body and it will be too late. So act early to transform and reset yourself on the Path––using right effort–abandoning the anger and refraining from maintaining the conditions necessary to maintain it, then developing patience and compassion and maintaining those.

The final part of this series will appear in about 2 weeks. Look for the announcement in the Center's next newsletter.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

There Is No Greater Evil Than Anger

The First in a Three-Part Serie on Anger

Anger Is Always Unhealthy and Destructive

All the virtuous deeds and merit,
Such as giving and making offerings,
That we have accumulated over thousands of eons
Can be destroyed by just one moment of anger.

There is no evil greater than anger,
And no virtue greater than patience.
Therefore, I should strive in various ways
To become familiar with the practice of patience.

If I harbor painful thoughts of anger,
I shall not experience mental peace,
I shall find no joy or happiness,
And I shall be unsettled and unable to sleep.

––Excerpts from Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life by Shantideva

Anger and the Abrahamic Religions

From Genesis, where we see the first signs of the Abrahamic God becoming angry with Adam and Eve to Exodus, where God is raging, first at the Egyptians and then at his chosen people, through to Jesus tirade at the money-changers in the Temple to the command in Ephesians (4:26): “Be angry,” we see anger as godly and righteous, though both the Hebrew Scriptures and the Christian Scriptures warn us against “worldly” or “manly” anger. The Quran shares many of these early references as well as references to Mohammed becoming angry and condoning righteous anger.

In the Abrahamic religions, there is good anger and bad anger. Good anger is the anger of God or his representatives (Moses, Jesus, Mohammed, et al), or anger at what one supposes would anger God or his representatives, or anger at perceived injustices. All other anger, worldly anger, is defined as bad anger. This understanding of anger, however, condones and encourages most forms of anger and ultimately justifies everything from the periodic slaughters and genocides of the early Hebrew Scriptures to the medieval Inquisition and Crusades to today’s violent Jihads.

Anger and Buddhism

Buddhist on the other hand views all anger as a defilement. In fact, anger is such a strong defilement that it is categorized, along with greed and delusion, as one of the three poisons. And one of the fundamental principles of Buddhism is that defiled behavior can only lead to more defiled behavior: being angry cannot make us peaceful, acting angrily does cannot make this a better world.

For Buddhists, anger is anger, anger is always a defilement, an afflicted emotion, and there is no such thing as righteous anger or righteous indignation. For Buddhists, “anger management” is an oxymoron. It is not about “managing” our anger, meaning making better use of our anger, it is about eliminating anger.

Anger is one of the most common and destructive defilements, it afflicts our minds almost all the time, whether it is in its least weighty forms, as uneasiness or irritability, or in its full-blown forms, as rage/fury and combat.

Ending Anger

To minimize and ultimately eliminate anger, we need to understand it and to develop wisdom, patience, and discipline
·       We need to recognize anger and how and when it arises in our mind.
·       We need to understand that for anger to arise, we must lack compassion for those who are suffering;
·       We need to understand then that developing compassion will reduce our anger.
·       We must acknowledge how anger is always harmful, never beneficial, to both us and others.
·       We need to see that patience is the antidote for anger, and
·       We need to understand the benefits of being patient in the face of difficulties.
·       We then need to apply practical methods in our daily life to reduce our anger (right speech, for example) and finally to prevent it from arising at all.

This is called leading a disciplined life.

Leading a disciplined life and avoiding negative actions and mind-states is what Buddhists understand as The Path.

Kinda-Sorta In Dependent Origination Terms

When there is aversion, anger arises. With the ceasing of anger, compassion and patience arise.
When there is compassion and patience, anger does not arise.

The wisdom piece: Anger can arise because we are not being compassionate and patient. Which begs the question, why aren’t we feeling compassionate and patient? It is because our stories (our fabrications about what is happening rather than what is happening dominate our thinking) are causing us to pull seeds of great aversion.

To insist on compassion, we must learn to understand, on progressively deeper and deeper practice levels, that everyone is suffering and that everything they do, however dysfunctional, is an attempt to relieve their suffering.

When we see this, deeply see this, we become compassionate not angry and seek way to help rather than retaliate.

Studying and contemplating the first noble truth, there is suffering, can be very beneficial in developing this aspect of wisdom.

The second in this three-part series will be posted in about two weeks.